Saturday, July 8, 2017

Posted by John David Anderson

Before beginning middle school Frost worried about whether he would make friends.  Now in 8th grade, he is part of a "tribe" of four guys who are different but who all get each other.  When new girl Rose shows up and then starts sitting with the group at lunch, the balance of Frost's group gets thrown off.  In addition, Rose is something of an oddball and Frost isn't sure it's a great idea to be associated with her at all since they are already a target for the school bullies.  Things start to really escalate when the school declares a complete ban on cell phones.  Students begin using Post-it notes to leave notes - first on lockers and then everywhere else in school.  The notes are cute and friendly at first but soon take a different turn.

I found this book to be fine which is not as damning as it sounds, but it wasn't what I was expecting going into it.  I feel like it is being sold as a story about bullying but it read more to me like a growing up/friendship dynamics story.  The bullying is definitely in there, but since I work in a middle school, it seemed more like just what I see everyday.  Which is probably pretty sad, when I lay it out like that.  The final big act that leads to things changing for the main characters isn't prefaced enough to be totally effective.  When we are told what was written on the locker, the impact wasn't great because I didn't know all the backstory leading up to that and why it was so devastating to that character.  All of that was explained - what the bullies had been saying to him - but not until after it happened.  So I feel like the bullying aspect of the story was not as strong as it could have been nor as I was expecting.

However, the group dynamics part of the book was really good.  It was painful watching the one tribe member distance himself from the group and I think most adults can remember that happening to a friend (or being that friend) who is very suddenly not a close friend anymore.  Rose is a great character.  At first she is a problem for the friends but her presence allows them to change and deepen their relationships.  I assumed she was hiding some huge secret but no, she's just straightforward and fascinating.  So I feel that this is a good book that has some marketing issues.  Read it as a coming of age/growing up/friendship story and you will enjoy it.

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